I decided to venture out of Center City to explore the restaurants of South Street, and specifically Serpico (604 South Street). Given that I am 6’6”, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be jumped in that neighborhood. But, I brought Jake Branzburg (WG ’14) along just in case, because I figured I’d be able to run faster from trouble than him if needed. Actually…I kid. There’s a Whole Foods a few blocks away, so you know the area is well on its way to being yuppified (although the Serpico website does say “Yes, on South Street” under its address).
Serpico is the result of a tryst between Stephen Star (of Alma de Cuba, Continental, El Vez, and half of the other restaurants in Philly) and chef Peter Serpico, a James Beard Award winner. It opened in June, was dubbed “Philly’s most beautiful restaurant” by eater.com, and featured on eater.com’s Heatmap, which is a great source for finding out where the town’s hottest restaurants are. I’d recommend not showing up before 5pm, as they only serve dinner. But if you’re looking to eat after 5pm, this is a fantastic place to go.
The restaurant describes its food as “ingredient-driven offering a seasonally evolving menu of playful yet familiar takes on global fare”. Based on my experience as someone who eats a lot, I’d have to agree. The Asian-inspired New American dishes were varied, beautifully presented and delicious.
The menu is split into three parts: appetizers, medium sized plates and main courses. As a heads up, the restaurant doesn’t serve bread, instead providing rice crisps with sesame. Although initially disappointed about the lack of filling-ness they provide, I was quickly satisfied with the other dishes. We ordered the Raw Diver Scallops (pictured) and the Sunchoke Salad as starters, and had the Duck Breast (hot dog bun style), Cope’s Corn Ravioli and Pig Tail with polenta (the night’s special dish) for our mains (all medium sized plates). They were consistently wonderful, particularly the scallops, which was presented beautifully and had a subtle yet sophisticated taste. The ravioli was a little on the rich side, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the dishes we ordered. I would definitely get the scallops and duck breast – those were my two favorite dishes. Although I’m hesitant to admit it, I was too full to order dessert and feel that I’ve let down my family and the entire Wharton community as a result.
Serpico offers a limited but high quality list of beers and cocktails, and a great looking list of wine options. It is apparently well known for its Sake offerings. Though tempted to order the $120 Ginga Shizuku “Divine Droplets,” something told me the Wharton Journal wasn’t going to cover it.
On the service front, our waiter was helpful, patient and flirty (ok maybe only two of those three). Almost all of his recommendations were on point, and I think he enjoyed it when I slipped a $20 bill with my phone number into his waiter apron (I’m still waiting for a call).
The decor complimented the rest of the experience, with a minimalist décor of exposed tan bricks above black walls with the menus written out in chalk. There is separate bar and an 18-seat chef’s counter around the kitchen (where we sat), which allows you to watch the cooks work their magic.
I would budget about $50-$60 per person, including a few drinks, depending on how gluttonous and drunk you want to get. Serpico is a wonderful restaurant that would be great to go to with a date or a small group of friends. So get out of Center City one of these nights and enjoy!